Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe vol. II


On October 8, 1944 Messerschmitt submitted a preliminary project of another two-seat night fighter version designated Me 262 B-2a> Compared to the B-1a the aircraft was to feature a 1.15 m plug in the fuselage mid-section, increasing the fighter’s internal fuel capacity to 3 170 l. The resulting flight endurance was expected to be 130 to 145 minutes. The canopy was also to be redesigned, while the increased weight necessitated the use of larger landing gear wheels (660 x 190 mm nose gear wheel and 935 x 345 mm main landing gear wheels). The armament was to comprise a standard fit of four nose-mounted MK 108 30 mm cannons augmented by a pair of MK 108s with 90 rounds per gun fitted in the mid-canopy section as Schräge Musik. The war ended before a prototype of the proposed night fighter could be completed.
In the second half of 1944 engineers at the Messerschmitt design bureau revisited the idea of an interceptor design, which was first mentioned in a study dated September 11, 1943 as Interzeptor. The new design was designated Me 262 C-1a Heimatschützer I (Homeland Defender I). On September 2, 1944 262 A-1a, W.Nr. 130 186 arrived at Lechfeld and was subsequently converted into a C-1a prototype under the designation of V 186. One of the major modifications was the installation of a Walter HWK RII/211 rocket booster in the aircraft’s tail and the addition of strengthened skin panels around the exhaust nozzle. The rocket booster could provide from 101 to 1 702 kG of additional thrust. The aircraft was first flown using turbojet propulsion alone and then completed a series of ground tests. On February 27, 1945 Gerd Lindner made the first flight using all three engines. Four additional sorties using the rocket booster were flown on March 15, 1945. The fighter demonstrated truly impressive rate of climb capabilities: it needed only three minutes to reach 8 000 m and a climb to 12 000 m took only 4.5 minutes. Unfortunately, the prototype was damaged during an Allied raid on March 23, 1945 and was never repaired.
Another version of an interceptor fighter was to be the Me 262 C-2b Heimatschützer II. The first prototype, the converted W.Nr. 170 074 airframe, arrived at Lechfeld on December 20, 1944. The fighter was powered by a pair of BMW 003 TLR engines – a combination of a turbojet and a rocket booster in a single housing. The aircraft made its first flight using only turbojet power on January 8, 1945. It was not until March 26, 1945 that Karl Bauer first flew the fighter using both jet and rocket propulsion. The C-2b climbed to 8 200 m in 1.2 minutes and needed only 3.9 minutes to reach 12 000 m.

Combat tactics
The Messerschmitt Me 262’s forte, both in a fighter and bomber role, was its superior speed, which in most cases allow the aircraft to avoid the threat posed by enemy fighters. It was especially important in the case of the Blitz bomber, which was expected to operate under conditions of total enemy air superiority. One has to bear in mind the Me 262 A-1a was never capable of achieving its design top speed of 870 km/h. Poor quality of materials used in the manufacturing process and the drag produced by bomb racks installed on A-2a versions reduced the fighter’s top speed to some 830 – 840 km/h (which was demonstrated during tests at Erprobungsstelle Rechlin). Additionally, flight test carried out on June 15, 1944 indicated that a single 250 kg bomb carried by the aircraft reduced the fighter’s speed by additional 40 km/h. Adding another 250 kg weapons had a speed penalty of 75 km/h, while a 500 kg bomb cost 55 km/h in speed performance. In practice, a typical cruising speed of a fully loaded Me 262 A-2a did not exceed 740 km/h, which meant that, under favorable tactical conditions, the aircraft could be successfully intercepted by Allied piston-powered types such as P-47, P-51, Tempest, or even Spitfire.
The Luftwaffe aircrews operating Me 262 A-2a and Me 262 A-1a/Jabo used very simple bombing tactics. The aircraft ingress the target area at 4 500 m at maximum speed and enter a shallow, 30° dive accelerating to 850 km/h. The pilot used standard Revi 16B gun sight to aim the weapon, which was released at some 100 – 120 m above the target. This typical attack profile was usually performed by a pair of Me 262s flying with 100 m of horizontal separation. The pilots had to be mindful of the quickly building speed once the aircraft entered the dive and, in order not to exceed 900 km/h, had to maintain the turbines at 6 000 RPM and control the speed with pitch adjustments. At time of the bomb release the rear fuselage fuel tank had to be empty, otherwise the aircraft would pitch up violently, which in some cases led to the wing separating from the fuselage.
In quickly became evident that bombing accuracy at such great speeds left much to be desired. A solution was to be the TSA-2A flight control system (Tief- und Sturzflug Anlage – a control device for level flight and dives), which was tested at Rechlin in late 1944. The results showed the new device to be four times more accurate than the Revi 16B gun sight.
The 262 A-2a and Me 262 A-1a/Jabo were also tried in low level ground attack missions against enemy troop concentrations. In such attacks the nose-mounted cannons were used to strafe the Allied columns, although the MK 108s were completely useless in that role: their muzzle velocity was way too low and they had a pitiful rate of fire. The attacks were usually prosecuted from some 400 m above ground, which made the unarmored jets especially vulnerable to ground fire.